Welcome to Inclusive Education.


Down syndrome and learning

http://inclusive.tki.org.nz/guides/down-syndrome-and-learning/

Students with Down syndrome are likely to need support with speech and language, memory and processing information, social skills and independence, literacy and numeracy.

You may find they have strong empathy with others, good social skills, good short-term memory and visual learning skills.

This guide focuses on areas for specific support, and on whole-class strategies that benefit all students. It includes links to in-depth resources.

 

Categories

Specifically about
Down Syndrome
Also related to
Removing barriers to learning

Information about Down syndrome

Like all learners, students with Down syndrome have a wide range of strengths, interests, and areas where they need support across the curriculum. 

A visual presentation of vital information about people with Down syndrome.

Source: dsnsw's channel (AUS)

No captions or transcript available

Suggestions and resources

Similarities and differences (video)
Just like you – Down Syndrome

Celebrating the many similarities and differences students with Down syndrome have with all students.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Isaac Alongi (USA)

Similarities and differences
Definition

 

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that causes delays in learning and development. It occurs because cells contain an extra chromosome, number 21; as a result, all cells in the body have 47 chromosomes rather than the usual 46.

It is a genetic mutation that can occur in any family or any race or culture. In New Zealand about one child in 1000 is born with Down syndrome; one or more children with Down syndrome are born every week.

Definition

Resources and downloads

New Zealand Down Syndrome Association

Information to describe what Down Syndrome is and life with Down Syndrome.

What is Down syndrome?

Information from Down Syndrome, Australia.

What is Down syndrome?

Information from the National Down Syndrome Society, USA.

Parents describe their twins (NZ) (video)
The Whittington twins

Parents describe the characteristics of their twins who have Down syndrome.

No captions or transcript available

Source: AttitudeTV (NZ)

Parents describe their twins (NZ)
Characteristics of Down syndrome

 

Every person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess the following characteristics to different degrees or not at all:

  • physical – low muscle tone and small stature. Motor skills develop at a slower rate for children with Down syndrome
  • medical – cardiac problems, depressed immune system, vision and hearing impairment
  • cognitive delay (developmental, behavioral and interpersonal) – usually mild to moderate. This is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each individual possesses.
Characteristics of Down syndrome
Similarities and differences (video)
Just like you – Down syndrome

Celebrating the many similarities and differences students with Down syndrome have with all students.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Isaac Alongi (USA)

Similarities and differences

Resources and downloads

What is Down syndrome?

Description from the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association.

What is Down syndrome?

Information from the National Down Syndrome Society, USA.

Facts about Down Syndrome

Information from the National Association for Down Syndrome, USA.

Challenges and teaching approaches (image)
Down syndrome pullout
Every situation and every student is different

How Down syndrome can influence learning outlines student strengths and the challenges they may face at school. It describes teaching opportunities to support learning.

Down syndrome A resource for educators examines how Down syndrome can influence learning and provides strategies teachers can use in the classroom.

Source: Ministry of Education

Challenges and teaching approaches
Areas to focus on

Cognitive and behavioural features requiring support

There is a specific pattern of cognitive and behavioural features observed among children with Down syndrome. By understanding more about these patterns we can devise more effective teaching approaches.

These can include strategies to support:

  1. language development

  2. short-term and auditory memory (remembering sounds heard verbally)

  3. auditory processing, for example, discriminating sounds, blending sounds and keeping the order of sounds in their short-term memory (these skills affect phonological awareness)

  4. storing and processing information

  5. number concepts

  6. expressive language, grammar and speech clarity

  7. motor development

  8. social skill development, particularly for those students with language delay.

Areas to focus on
How teachers can help me learn (NZ) (video)
How teachers can help me learn

Katrina, a high school student at Onslow College makes recommendations about ways teachers can support her learning; strategies that could be useful for all students.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

How teachers can help me learn (NZ)

Resources and downloads

A student with Down syndrome

A resource from Down Syndrome, South Australia that explains Down syndrome and provides suggestions for teaching strategies and classroom adaptations to meet the needs of students with Down syndrome.

Development and learning

Research-based explanation of development and learning for people with Down syndrome from Down Syndrome Education International.

Teachers / Education

Resources for educators of children with Down Syndrome from Downs Syndrome Association UK.

Education support packs

Comprehensive education support packs for primary and secondary contexts developed by the Down’s Syndrome Association UK. Contents include "effective strategies for inclusion, developing language skills, accessing the curriculum, teaching reading, developing writing skills, learning mathematics and numeracy skills, promoting positive behaviour and social skills, successful transitions and using computers as an aid to learning".

Down syndrome: A resource for educators

This Ministry of Education booklet examines how Down syndrome can influence learning and provides strategies teachers can use in the classroom.

How Down syndrome can influence learning

A summary of student strengths and the challenges students with Down syndrome may experience at school. It contains teaching opportunities outlining adjustments to the classroom, ways to present the curriculum, technologies that can be utilised, and ways to stimulate interest and make learning successful. A Ministry of Education publication.

Back to top

Identifying needs and strengths, and accessing support

Get to know your student. Parents, family, and whānau are key sources of information. Talk to them (and your student) to build a good understanding of the student’s physical, emotional, and learning needs.

Megan Bongaars, a student with Down syndrome, tells teachers about the high expectations she wants them to have of her.

Source: Everyone Matters (US)

No captions or transcript available

Suggestions and resources

How teachers can help me learn (NZ) (video)
How teachers can help me learn

Katrina is a high school student at Onslow College. She makes recommendations for teachers about ways they can support her learning.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

How teachers can help me learn (NZ)
Sample learner profile (image)
Learner profile
Who am I?

A learner profile can be created in any format including:

  • a document with photos
  • a slide presentation with a series of pictures
  • a video
  • a blog.

Source: Ministry of Education (NZ)

Sample learner profile
Benefits of learner profiles

It’s useful to develop a profile of all of your students, and to use this as the basis of a class profile.

A learner profile tells teachers about students. It sits alongside assessment data. It helps school staff to build relationships with students and to understand things from a student perspective. This can inform planning, classroom layout, timetabling, and supports to enable students to participate and contribute.

Developing a learner profile means your students can:

  • express who they are
  • address assumptions
  • express their aspirations and passions
  • have a say in what goes on for them.

Senior students may prefer to just have a conversation. Take time to get the student’s views of what will support their learning.

Benefits of learner profiles
What to include in a learner profile

The purpose of a learner profile can be agreed by the student, their whānau, and the teacher.

Depending on its purpose, a useful profile (whether an official document or simply inquiry on your part) can include:

  1. important people

  2. cultural connections and experiences

  3. languages spoken

  4. things the student is good at

  5. memorable life experiences

  6. how they like to unwind and relax

  7. likes and interests

  8. dislikes and things they avoid

  9. how they like to learn and what helps

  10. things that make it hard for them to learn

  11. what they do when they need help.

What to include in a learner profile
Surveying students

In the video Student Profiles, Canadian secondary teacher Naryn Searcy describes how she asks students about how they learn most effectively. She also asks what is important to them beyond school.

She uses this information in her planning:

"I personally do a survey at the beginning of every class every semester, just everything from personal background to their history in the subject area to things they like to do outside of school, usually put a whole bunch of activities down there that we would potentially do in the class and ask them to rank it, you know what would you enjoy doing, what would you not like doing.

So just to get an idea of who is in the classroom to begin with and what they would benefit, or what they want to see in the class, what would work for them."

Source: Student Profiles - UDL supporting diversity in BC schools (Canada)

Surveying students

Resources and downloads

Laiza’s transition

An example of a primary school student’s learner profile, developed by the adults around her.

A learning profile for students with Down Syndrome

A learning profile developed by Down Syndrome Ireland.

Developing learner profiles

This document provides general support and guidance when developing a learner profile. It includes prompts and questions, along side purpose and benefits for students.

Most effective when used together

Health conditions

Health conditions in students with Down syndrome

Many students with Down syndrome have health conditions related to the syndrome. These may include conditions affecting their heart, respiratory system, eyesight or hearing.

Discuss with parents and whānau any specific health conditions the student has and your role in helping the student to stay active, healthy, and well rested. Consider, for example, whether your student needs a rest on days following a night of broken or too little sleep.

Health conditions
Suggestions for working with parents

Suggestions for working with parents, caregivers and whānau

  1. Communicate and share information in a meaningful way, demonstrating understanding and support for parents’ concerns.

  2. Value what parents and caregivers have noticed or assessments they have had done outside school.

  3. Involve parents and caregivers in determining strategies to support student learning and well-being at home and school.

  4. Work with any programmes or materials they are using at home, to maximise consistency and support for the student.

  5. Develop systems for passing on information about a student’s needs, progress and next steps from one teacher to the next.

  6. Share information about out-of-school programmes that may help to boost the student’s self-esteem (for example, classes or groups for music, art, dance or sports).

Suggestions for working with parents
What to ask parents

Questions to ask parents and whānau

Connect with parents, whānau and caregivers to understand the strengths and needs of students.

Practical elements:

  • the language/s spoken at home
  • medications and allergies
  • equipment used at home
  • what they do at home to support learning.

Student’s likes and dislikes:

  • likes, interests, what they’re good at, need help with, can do independently
  • dislikes, what can upset them, how they express this, calming skills
  • favourites (TV programmes, hobbies, books, songs, sports).

The people in the student’s life:

  • parent and whānau hopes and priorities
  • important people in the student’s life
  • best methods and times to communicate with the family
  • professionals working with the family
  • questions they have and support they would like from the school.
What to ask parents

Resources and downloads

10 things teachers should know about Down syndrome

Advice from a parent with two daughters who have Down syndrome.

Family/whānau file

A booklet published by the Ministry of Education to help parents of students with additional needs to brief their child’s school.

Collaborative tools at Onslow College (NZ) (video)
Using e-portfolios to collaborate

John Robinson, HoD Learning Support, reflects on the impact of using digital technologies to share information about students more effectively between staff.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Collaborative tools at Onslow College (NZ)
Working as a team

Seeking support from your learning support coordinator or RTLB

Identify people with specialist knowledge who are in your school or local area.

Start with your learning support coordinator. Work with them to connect with experts such as the speech language therapist and occupational therapist. Identify colleagues who have experience teaching students with Down syndrome and can provide advice, guidance or support. 

Build a team and work collaboratively.

  • Share your concerns, questions, and ideas.
  • Take an inquiry approach: discuss assessment approaches, evaluate assessment data together, and consider possible strategies and approaches.
  • Meet together with the student and whānau and take a team approach to planning and providing support.
  • Ask about recommended resources and online communities.
Working as a team
Data for personalising learning

 

To assist with personalising learning, build a picture of the student’s:

  1. language and communication skills

  2. gross and fine motor skills

  3. literacy skills

  4. numeracy skills

  5. ways they learn successfully

  6. ability to act independently

  7. social skills and ability to form relationships.

Data for personalising learning
Strengths based approach (NZ) (video)
Build on your student’s strengths

Brooke Houghton, Onslow College, describes using a strengths based approach to identify a student’s strengths and use those as a scaffold to develop new skills.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Strengths based approach (NZ)
Sharing successful approaches (image)
Student in a play
Providing continuity

Find effective ways to share strategies and approaches that are successful for a student in one class with other teachers.

Source: Ministry of Education (NZ)

Sharing successful approaches

Resources and downloads

Teachers / Education

Resources for educators of children with Down Syndrome from Downs Syndrome Association UK.

Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS)

Information from the Ministry of Education about what ORS funding provides, who qualifies for ORS, how ORS funding is managed, and how to resolve any differences.

Teachers and teachers’ aides working together

Nine modules that teachers and teachers’ aides complete together to strengthen working relationships, improve role clarity and build knowledge of inclusive practice. Developed by the Ministry of Education.

Individual education plans

A Ministry of Education resource on Individual Education Plans. IEPOnline is for anyone involved in developing or implementing individual education plans (IEPs) to support students with special education needs.

NZ resources and organisations

New Zealand organisations that provide support for people with Down syndrome, as well as advice for teachers and families, include:

  1. New Zealand Down Syndrome Association

  2. Auckland Down Syndrome Association

  3. Canterbury Down Syndrome Association

  4. IHC

NZ resources and organisations

Resources and downloads

New Zealand Down Syndrome Association

Information to describe what Down Syndrome is and life with Down Syndrome.

IHC New Zealand

Information from IHC New Zealand.

Where else can I get information?

A Ministry of Education webpage with links to organisations that may be able to provide information and support for diverse learners.

Back to top

Supporting communication, literacy and numeracy, thinking, social interaction, and positive behaviour

Plan with the student’s culture, experiences, needs and strengths in mind. Create a positive environment where they can thrive. Regularly review what you do and how it’s working for students.

A student with Down syndrome shows how technology supports his communication and learning.

Source: DynaVox Mayer-Johnson (US)

No captions or transcript available

Suggestions and resources

Making conversation (video)
Good conversation partners

A clip identifying and demonstrating the skills involved in being a good conversation partner.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Will Schermerhorn (USA)

Making conversation
Communicating with students
  1. Use fewer words.

  2. Slow down your rate of speaking.

  3. Speak clearly and directly to students, taking care over similarly-sounding words such as “trees” and “cheese”.

  4. Give students more time to process information.

  5. Use clear, concise written language, accompanied by pictures, objects and gestures.

  6. Explore a range of visual communication tools to support classroom routines and prepare for transitions.

  7. Use students’ names to gain attention before giving an instruction or asking a question.

  8. Display new vocabulary on a whiteboard or chart.

  9. Support verbal instructions and discussions with visual information, including keywords, symbols or images.

Communicating with students
Using games (image)
13679851725 6c46db9116 o
Games can facilitate communication

Encourage conversations between your student with Down syndrome and other students.

Source: Kathy Cassidy

Using games

Resources and downloads

Secondary education support pack

Twelve units focusing on different curriculum areas, learning skills, and social skills.

Primary education support pack

Ten units providing teaching strategies for different curriculum areas, learning skills and social skills.

Including pupils with Down syndrome – Primary

Practical advice for teachers and support staff from Down's Syndrome Associaton (UK).

Reading strategies (video)
Successful strategies for beginning readers with Down syndrome

Explanations of strategies and examples of these in practice.

No captions or transcript available

Source: DSRFCANADA (Canada)

Reading strategies
Ideas for effective reading
  1. Have the student combine previously-learned words to form short phrases of 2–3 words. Select words that will have high interest for the student.

  2. Create sentence strips or Velcro-backed cards and have students progress from copying a sentence structure to creating their own sentences in response to an image.

  3. Create books with students based on the sight words and sentences they are learning, and give students frequent opportunities to read them.

  4. Play games using sight words; practise in natural settings as a change from decontextualised contexts such as flashcards.

  5. Emphasise and provide practice reading connecting words (for example, “and”, “or” and “but”).

  6. Use repetitive sentence patterns to help students to match words to pictures, as well as to sequence, predict and expand on their sight words (for example,  “I like …”).

Ideas for effective reading
Ideas for teaching numeracy
  1. Use concrete materials and hands-on activities.

  2. Maximise the use of visuals and support learning with visual materials, cues and supports where possible.

  3. Break tasks into small component steps and provide lots of practice and reinforcement.

  4. Find extra activities to practise and consolidate skills in a range of contexts.

  5. Revisit and consolidate previously-learned skills before introducing new material that builds on them.

  6. Relate mathematics to daily living skills wherever possible.

  7. Use simple language – explicitly teach the language of mathematics alongside the concepts.

  8. Use app games for skills practice – they increase motivation and allow intensive repetition of skills.

Ideas for teaching numeracy

Resources and downloads

Successful strategies: Memory, phonological awareness, and beginning phonics

A video explaining reading strategies focused on building auditory memory and sound discrimination for students with Down syndrome.

Developing phonics skills and reading fluency

A variety of activities teachers can use to support the development of phonics skills and reading fluency are demonstrated in this video.

Teacher information packet

Comprehensive classroom strategies for teaching students with Down syndrome from Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan.

Special iApps

Apps designed to be suitable for typically-developing children and those with learning difficulties or poor fine motor control.

Use visual materials (image)
A visual timer
Support learning with visual materials

Learning is more effective when information is presented with the support of pictures, signs, gestures or objects.

Source: Time Timer LLC

Use visual materials
Why visual information works

Research suggests that people with Down syndrome learn better when visuals are used to support their learning. 

Short-term memory is the immediate memory system which holds information “in mind” for short periods of time and supports all learning and cognitive activity. It has separate components specialised for processing visual and verbal information.

The ability of children with Down syndrome to hold and process verbal information is not as effective as their ability to hold and process visual information. This makes it more difficult for students to learn new words and sentences and to process spoken language when it is presented without visual cues or illustrations. 

Processing and recall of spoken information is improved when it is supported by relevant visual material, expecially when it is of high interest to the student.

Why visual information works
Ideas for presenting content

Ideas for presenting content and concepts in a variety of ways

  1. Adjust the classroom to support learning. For example, develop frequent opportunities for students to move into pairs or groups to discuss their thinking.

  2. Present curriculum content in different ways. For example, use visual aids such as photo boards and posters as tools to support students’ recall and retrieval skills.

  3. Stimulate interest and motivation for learning. For example, give lots of positive reinforcement and feed forward or instructions about how to make the next step.

  4. Ensure that students have enough time to process information and to formulate responses.

  5. Support students with organisers to help them to plan and focus on a task.

  6. Provide multiple options for students to express what they know. For example, students who find spoken language challenging could present information visually or through technology.

Ideas for presenting content
Using mind maps (image)
Mind map created in Popplet
Support thinking with mind mapping tools

Introduce students to a range of mind mapping tools, such as Popplet.

Model how they can be used across all learning areas to support thinking and planning.

Source: Catriona Pene, CORE Education

Using mind maps

Resources and downloads

Special iApps

Apps designed to be suitable for typically-developing children and those with learning difficulties or poor fine motor control.

Graphic Organizers

Advice about how to support students in the effective use of a variety of graphic organisers on the Resources for Teachers website.

Supporting social interaction
  1. Explain Down syndrome to your students. Discuss this with the student’s parents and family beforehand. Parents of a child with Down syndrome may want to talk to their child's class.

  2. Partner your student with Down syndrome with other students for group activities. Aides or teachers can help, but shouldn't act as partners.

  3. Give students opportunities to identify their strengths.

  4. Encourage students to feel less stressed in social situations by using warmth, patience and good humour when you talk with them.

  5. Encourage students to share their interests, For example, create a class bulletin board featuring the school-based and out-of-school interests of students.

  6. Create an environment where students can see one another clearly, identify social cues and practise and learn taking turns.

Supporting social interaction
Student stories (video)
Just-like-you syndrome

Students share personal stories to help people understand Down syndrome and why they wish to be treated just like everybody else.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Isaac Alongi (USA)

Student stories
Supporting positive behaviour

Most students with Down syndrome develop social skills and social behaviour that support their learning and strengthen their relationships with others.

A small number of students may need specific suppport in ths area.

  • Understand and respond to the function (the why) of the behaviour, rather than responding solely to the behaviour itself. Students might be trying to avoid or obtain something. They might be trying to communicate distress, discomfort, pain or frustration.
  • Work on developing the skills that are required to progress both in learning and social situations.

The Down’s Syndrome Association in the UK has developed Education support packs for primary and secondary schools.

Supporting positive behaviour

Resources and downloads

Positive steps for social inclusion

A guide to supporting social inclusion compiled by the National Down Syndrome Society (US).

Including pupils with Down syndrome – Primary

Practical advice for teachers and support staff from Down's Syndrome Associaton (UK).

Education support packs

Comprehensive education support packs for primary and secondary contexts developed by the Down’s Syndrome Association UK. Contents include "effective strategies for inclusion, developing language skills, accessing the curriculum, teaching reading, developing writing skills, learning mathematics and numeracy skills, promoting positive behaviour and social skills, successful transitions and using computers as an aid to learning".

Back to top

Using whole class strategies to support students with Down syndrome, years 1–6

Take a look at your learning environment, including your teaching strategies, assessment processes, materials and the ways you design learning opportunities. Consider how it feels and works for students with Down syndrome.

Imagine your classroom through the eyes of a student with Down Syndrome. What will support learning? What might be a barrier or a distraction?

Source: Ministry of Education (NZ)

Suggestions and resources

Supporting success (image)
A visual timer
Time and task management approaches

Breaking tasks into smaller parts and setting deadlines can be a useful approach for many students.

Visual timers, such as this Time Timer app, can help students keep track of the time and increase motivation.

 

Source: Time Timer LLC

Supporting success
Supporting independence

Suggestions for supporting autonomy and independence

  1. Use your knowledge of the student’s interests and create opportunities where the student can take the lead.

  2. Break work into short manageable chunks. Give ongoing prompts and positive feedback and provide the student with strategies to help them when they get stuck.

  3. Establish clear classroom routines and expectations. Structure allows students to be able to predict “what’s next”.

  4. Foster tuakana-teina relationships and create a culture where students support each other.

  5. Recognise avoidance strategies and provide support and encouragement.

  6. People can’t maintain attention all the time – schedule and take breaks.

Supporting independence
Educating Peter (video)
Educating Peter part 2

A video following Peter, a student with Down syndrome, and his class peers over a year. 

No captions or transcript available

Source: directcinemaslimited's channel (USA)

Educating Peter
Using social stories

Supporting language skills and social interactions

Social Stories™, comic strip conversations, and social scripts are strategies used to support your students’ language skills and social interactions. While these strategies have commonalities, there are differences between them which mean that each is recommended for different types of situations.

Fact Sheet 15 – Social stories explains the specific purpose of each strategy and provides research based suggestions of how and when to use them successfully with students.

Source: Autism Spectrum Australia

Using social stories

Resources and downloads

Positive steps for social inclusion

A guide to supporting social inclusion compiled by the National Down Syndrome Society (US).

Social stories creator and library for preschool, autism, and special needs

A free app for creating and sharing educational social stories and visual schedules. Download for iPhone and iPad.

Primary education support pack

Ten units providing teaching strategies for different curriculum areas, learning skills and social skills.

Including pupils with Down syndrome – Primary

Practical advice for teachers and support staff from Down's Syndrome Associaton (UK).

Utilising text-to-speech tools (video)
Introduce students to alternative ways of accessing text

In this video tutorial, US educator and UDL consultant, Kit Hard explains how to use text-to-speech to access digital text across the curriculum.

View transcript

Source: Kit Hard (US)

Utilising text-to-speech tools
Teaching in small groups (image)
Teacher and students working in a small group
Limit direct instruction from the front of the class

Communication can be more effective up close.

Source: Ministry of Education (NZ)

Teaching in small groups
Illustrating text with graphics (image)
infographic
Supporting understanding

Offer information in more than one way to support understanding.

Use symbols and graphics to illustrate text.

Keep the layout clean and uncluttered.

Source: CORE Education

Illustrating text with graphics
Ideas for presenting content

Ideas for presenting content in a variety of ways

  1. Take a multisensory approach – use real experiences, physical activity, and manipulables to support understanding.

  2. Support text and spoken information with photos, graphics, audio, and video.

  3. Present digital text rather than printed text so that students can personalise it by enlarging it or listening to it.

  4. Use blogs, wikis, and online tools such as Moodle to bring together different versions of the content in one place (for example, a YouTube video, a graphic and some text).

  5. Make instructions, demonstrations, or key content rewindable and accessible 24/7.

Ideas for presenting content
Finding videos with closed captions

How to find YouTube videos with closed captions using a laptop or desktop computer

  1. Search for YouTube and open the home page.

  2. Type search subject (for example “frogs”) into YouTube search bar and press return key.

  3. On left of screen, click the tab called “Filters” and a menu box will open.

  4. Select “subtitles/CC” under the Features list.

  5. Select a video from the selection of filtered videos presented by YouTube.

  6. Watch the selected video with the closed captions turned on to check for accuracy before sharing with students.

  7. Share closed captioned video with students.

Finding videos with closed captions

Resources and downloads

Primary education support pack

Ten units providing teaching strategies for different curriculum areas, learning skills and social skills.

ClassDojo

An online tool to support positive and on-task behaviour in the classroom.

Visual timetables (image)
Classroom timetable
Display the daily timetable

Provide visual support to assist students to manage their time and be prepared for learning. 

Source: Kathy Cassidy

Visual timetables
Supporting problem-solving

Strategies to support learning and problem-solving

  1. Do not assume that skills will be transferred automatically from one context to another.

  2. Check to ensure that students retain previously-learned skills before beginning new learning.

  3. Teach new skills using a variety of methods, materials and contexts and using concrete, practical and visual materials.

  4. Reinforce abstract concepts with visual and concrete materials.

  5. Offer additional explanations and demonstrations.

  6. Encourage problem-solving by using meaningful and practical everyday situations.

  7. Provide extra time and opportunities for additional repetition and reinforcement – where applicable, involve a buddy, parents, or a support teacher.

Supporting problem-solving
Supporting attention and focus
  1. Break learning into short, focused and clearly defined tasks.

  2. Vary the level of demand from task to task.

  3. Provide clear instructions that are visually displayed and can be easily returned to.

  4. Vary the level of support as necessary and teach buddies how to provide support.

  5. Provide a variety of technologies to support learning (for example, an iPad or a computer).

  6. Create an activity box for times when the student needs a change of activity or time out.

Supporting attention and focus
Using mind maps (image)
A mind map
Supporting understanding

Model the use of colour, symbols, and images alongside text when using mind maps.

Encourage students to use mind maps to support thinking and organise ideas.

Source: Barrett Discovery

Using mind maps
Supporting thinking
  1. Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas and relationships using visuals, mind maps, 3-D manipulatives, outlines, flow charts and real objects.

  2. Give students multiple opportunities to engage with new ideas and concepts.

  3. Provide extra time for students to think and process before needing to respond in a discussion.

  4. Use mind maps to brainstorm ideas and make connections.

  5. Support group and class discussions with visual annotations to prompt later recall of key ideas.

  6. Offer students a variety of graphic organisers and flow charts to support thinking in all curriculum areas.

Supporting thinking

Resources and downloads

Representation

In this video on the UDL: Supporting diversity in BC schools website, Canadian teachers share some of the ways they prepare learning materials to address diverse student needs in their classrooms. No captions or transcript available.

Primary education support pack

Ten units providing teaching strategies for different curriculum areas, learning skills and social skills.

Special iApps

Apps designed to be suitable for typically-developing children and those with learning difficulties or poor fine motor control.

Multiple options for storytelling (image)
Students using iPads to write
Supporting storytelling

Introduce students to a range of tools they can use to express their ideas and tell stories.

Encourage the use of multi-media tools, drawing, painting, drama and singing alongside writing.

Source: Kathy Cassidy

Multiple options for storytelling
Using role play (image)
Children enjoying role play
Drama and play

Provide students with opportunities to practise the language used in daily activities, such as grocery shopping, travelling on the bus, or going to the movies.

Source: Victoria Marienelli

Using role play
Ways to show what you know (image)
A list of ways to show what you know
Encourage and value creativity

Students with Down syndrome often enjoy drama and performance.

Grow their repetoire by encouraging experimentation with new and varied approaches.

Source: For the teachers blog

Ways to show what you know
Hands-on learning (image)
Students record their learning about bikes
Create hands-on learning opportunities

Hands-on experiences support understanding, recording, sharing and articulating learning.

Source: Kathy Cassidy

Hands-on learning
Supporting success in assessments

Discuss with students what support they need to demonstrate their understanding in assessments.

Consider:

  1. possible barriers hidden in the physical environment, for example: unfamiliar layout of room, lighting, temperature

  2. possible barriers hidden in the resources and materials, for example: cluttered presentation, hard-to-read diagrams, unclear layout, hard-copies only

  3. approaches to managing time allocations such as calendar tools and visual timers

  4. approaches to managing anxiety

  5. approaches to maintaining concentration

  6. negotiating breaks

  7. use of digital technologies such as text-to-speech and predictive text

  8. pre-teaching specific assessment/exam skills, such as how to approach multiple choice questions

Supporting success in assessments

Resources and downloads

Best apps for children with Down syndrome

Links to a range of apps and other online resources.

Different ways to publish your stories: Using a variety of tools

UK teacher Jacqui Sharp illustrates some of the ways students and teachers can present digital stories and inquiries, using many different tools.

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Using whole class strategies to support students with Down syndrome, years 7–13

Take a look at your learning environment, including your teaching strategies, assessment processes, materials and the ways you construct learning tasks or opportunities. Consider how it feels and works for your students with Down syndrome.

Create a flexible learning environment in partnership with students where the supports are built in at the outset.  

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Closed captioning available in player

Suggestions and resources

Katrina’s ambitions (NZ) (video)
Encourage students to plan for the future

Katrina, a student at Onslow College, talks about her ambition to become a kindergarten teacher and how she is working toward achieving this goal.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Katrina’s ambitions (NZ)
Developing social skills (image)
Student on a bicycle
Recognising opportunities

Social confidence and a positive sense of self are important aspects of adolescence.

Recognise and act on opportunties to provide positive feedback.

Source: John

Developing social skills
Educating students about Down syndrome (video)
We’re more alike than different

Educating students about Down syndrome builds understanding and breaks down barriers.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Jeff Jones (US)

Educating students about Down syndrome
Encouraging sustained participation
  1. Use your knowledge of the student’s interests and create opportunities where the student can take the lead.

  2. Break work into short manageable chunks. Give ongoing prompts and positive feedback, and provide the student with strategies to help them when they get stuck.

  3. Establish clear classroom routines and expectations. Structure allows students to be able to predict “what’s next”.

  4. Foster tuakana-teina relationships and create a culture where students support each other.

  5. Recognise avoidance strategies, and provide support and encouragement.

  6. People can’t attend all the time – schedule and take breaks.

Encouraging sustained participation

Resources and downloads

Positive steps for social inclusion

A guide to supporting social inclusion compiled by the National Down Syndrome Society (US).

Including pupils with Down syndrome – Primary

Practical advice for teachers and support staff from Down's Syndrome Associaton (UK).

Secondary education support pack

Twelve units focusing on different curriculum areas, learning skills, and social skills.

Education support packs

Comprehensive education support packs for primary and secondary contexts developed by the Down’s Syndrome Association UK. Contents include "effective strategies for inclusion, developing language skills, accessing the curriculum, teaching reading, developing writing skills, learning mathematics and numeracy skills, promoting positive behaviour and social skills, successful transitions and using computers as an aid to learning".

Utilising text-to-speech tools (video)
Introduce students to alternative ways of accessing text

In this video tutorial, US educator and UDL consultant, Kit Hard explains how to use text-to-speech to access digital text across the curriculum.

View transcript

Source: Kit Hard (US)

Utilising text-to-speech tools
Using technologies

Using technologies as tools to enable learning:

  1. can help to overcome specific challenges such as the fine motor control required for handwriting and drawing

  2. presents information in a multisensory manner and the presentation can be adapted to suit individual needs

  3. provides a combination of visual and auditory stimuli

  4. allows students to learn at their own pace and to revisit to consolidate learning as often as they like

  5. enables the presentation of differentiated work that can be presented flexibly to meet individual learning goals.

Using technologies
Ideas for presenting content

Ideas for presenting and sharing content and instructions in more than one way

  1. Take a multisensory approach – use real experiences, physical activities and manipulables to support understanding.

  2. Support text and spoken information with photos, graphics, audio, and video.

  3. Present digital text rather than printed text so that students can personalise it by changing the font size and design or by listening to it.

  4. Use blogs, wikis, and online tools such as Moodle to bring together different versions of content in one place (for example, by using a YouTube video, a graphic, and some text).

Ideas for presenting content
Illustrating text with graphics (image)
infographic
Supporting understanding

Offer information in more than one way to support understanding.

Use symbols and graphics to illustrate text.

Keep the layout clean and uncluttered.

Source: CORE Education

Illustrating text with graphics
Finding videos with closed captions

How to find YouTube videos with closed captions using a laptop or desktop computer

  1. Search for YouTube and open the home page.

  2. Type search subject (for example “frogs”) into YouTube search bar and press return key.

  3. On left of screen, click the tab called “Filters” and a menu box will open.

  4. Select “subtitles/CC” under the Features list.

  5. Select a video from the selection of filtered videos presented by YouTube.

  6. Watch the selected video with the closed captions turned on to check for accuracy before sharing with students.

  7. Share closed captioned video with students.

Finding videos with closed captions

Resources and downloads

Secondary education support pack

Twelve units focusing on different curriculum areas, learning skills, and social skills.

Popular movies help children improve literacy

A study by the University of Canterbury (NZ) showed that using captions not only significantly improved literacy levels, particularly among Māori and Pasifika students, but also reduced students’ truancy through engagement.

The MindShift guide to digital games and learning

A guide to support educators using digital games for learning. From the page access the guide a downloadable PDF or the blog posts by Jordan Shapiro that it is based on.

Using visual timers (video)
Optional supports

Visual timers, such as the Time Timer apps, can help students "see" the time they have for a task.

For some students this can reduce stress. It can also increase motivation and successful task completion.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Time Timer (US)

Using visual timers
Support concentration and memory

Provide options to support concentration and short-term memory

  1. Monitor and moderate the classroom for visual and auditory distractions.

  2. Present information in a range of ways over an extended period of time (for example, a week) to help students retain information, build up their understanding and familiarity of the topic, and stay stimulated and focused.

  3. Discuss with students the effectiveness of the learning environment and remove barriers and make modifications where needed.

  4. In online environments, make effective use of visual prompts and cues to support understanding and navigation. Make useful hyperlinks to background knowledge or previous learning to increase connections.

  5. Schedule regular short breaks to allow students to move physically.

Support concentration and memory
Supporting planning and organisation

Suggestions for supporting students’ planning and organisation

  1. Use charts, visual calendars, colour coded schedules, visible timers and cues to increase the predictability of regular activities and transitions.

  2. Encourage students to use their mobile devices to schedule alerts and reminders for regular and novel events and task deadlines.

  3. Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas and relationships using visuals, mind maps, 3-D manipulatives, outlines, flow charts and real objects.

  4. Model and make available graphic organisers and flow charts to support planning and thinking in all curriculum areas.

  5. Break tasks and lengthy assignments into small, manageable parts. Schedule workflow using Trello to organise what needs to be done and when.

  6. Provide options so that students can submit work online.

Supporting planning and organisation
Using mind maps (image)
A mind map
Supporting understanding

Model the use of colour, symbols, and images alongside text when using mind maps.

Encourage students to use mind maps to support thinking and organise ideas.

Source: Barrett Discovery

Using mind maps
Supporting thinking
  1. Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas and relationships using visuals, mind maps, 3-D manipulatives, outlines, flow charts and real objects.

  2. Give students multiple opportunities to engage with new ideas and concepts.

  3. Provide extra time for students to think and process before needing to respond in a discussion.

  4. Use mind maps to brainstorm ideas and make connections.

  5. Support group and class discussions with visual annotations to prompt later recall of key ideas.

  6. Offer students a variety of graphic organisers and flow charts to support thinking in all curriculum areas.

Supporting thinking

Resources and downloads

Free technology toolkit for UDL in all classrooms

A collection of free tools and resources, aligned to Universal Design for Learning approach, that support students in their learning.

Graphic organizers

A wide range of graphic organisers from Education Oasis that can be printed and some that can be filled out online. These are also useful as a starting point for creating students’ own designs.

Hands-on learning (video)
Create hands-on learning opportunities

Hands-on learning supports students with understanding, recording, sharing, and articulating their learning.

No captions or transcript available

Source: The Academic Grid (UK)

Hands-on learning
Personalising learning checklist

Optimise the environment for personalised learning. Identify and minimise potential barriers to students successfully demonstrating their understanding.

  1. Create opportunities where students can personalise learning tasks and projects and build on their knowledge, experience, and strengths.

  2. Develop success criteria with the students and present this with clear visual supports.

  3. Structure collaborative activities so that each student knows what is expected of them.

  4. Provide opportunities for students to gain confidence using a range of media so they can select the most appropriate to express their learning.

  5. Make learning support tools (text-to-speech, graphic organisers, planning tools and so on) available for all students.

  6. Use collaborative, peer mentoring, and cooperative learning models.

  7. Assess understanding and presentation separately.

  8. Discuss the best environments for students to work in during exams and assessments.

  9. Provide support in assessments, for example a reader-writer or assistive technologies.

Personalising learning checklist
Multiple means of story telling (image)
Using a computer to write
Tools for expression

Introduce students to a range of tools they can use to express their ideas and tell stories.

Encourage the use of multi-media tools, drawing, painting, drama and singing alongside writing.

Source: CORE Education (NZ)

Multiple means of story telling
Ways to show what you know (image)
A list of ways to show what you know
Encourage and value creativity

Students with Down syndrome often enjoy drama and performance.

Grow their repetoire by encouraging experimentation with new and varied approaches.

Source: For the teachers blog

Ways to show what you know
Supporting success in assessments

Discuss with students what support they need to demonstrate their understanding in assessments.

Consider:

  1. possible barriers hidden in the physical environment, for example: unfamiliar layout of room, lighting, temperature

  2. possible barriers hidden in the resources and materials, for example: cluttered presentation, hard-to-read diagrams, unclear layout, hard-copies only

  3. approaches to managing time allocations such as calendar tools and visual timers

  4. approaches to managing anxiety

  5. approaches to maintaining concentration

  6. negotiating breaks

  7. use of digital technologies such as text-to-speech and predictive text

  8. pre-teaching specific assessment/exam skills, such as how to approach multiple choice questions

  9. identify whether SAC application needs to be made for NCEA.

Supporting success in assessments

Resources and downloads

Universal Design for Learning iPad strategies: Text-to-speech

A video introducing text-to-speech to access digital text. Developed by US educator Kit Hard.

MyStudyBar

This is a free floating toolbar for Windows desktops and netbooks that provides a suite of portable open-source applications to support learning.

Free technology toolkit for UDL in all classrooms

A collection of free tools and resources, aligned to Universal Design for Learning approach, that support students in their learning.

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